UPS chief stumps for free trade

What can Brown do for you? It can make you a free trader.

UPS chief Scott Davis has taken to the podium lately, railing against protectionism anywhere he can.

In Brussels, Singapore and points in between, he brought his message to the troops at UPS. In Washington and Detroit, to outside audiences. Next stop, Hong Kong, for the American Chamber of Commerce meeting.

His speaking tour is likely to continue for quite some time, since the issue keeps popping up in Congress. First on the stimulus bill. Now, on the House bill curbing greenhouse-gas emissions.

Davis, chairman and CEO of the Sandy Springs-based package delivery giant that operates in 200 countries, knows his bread is buttered with global trade.

“We’re all about enabling global commerce,” said Davis, 57. “Our clients will be selling and sourcing goods all over the world.”

Atlanta is chock-full of international companies with CEOs who are in sync with Davis. The last thing they want to see is a growing movement to restrict free trade or impose tariffs — moves that if successful will cause retaliation by other nations.

Davis, an athletic, mild-mannered man, describes the ongoing trade debate as a tug-of-war between the heart and the head.

The heart, he said, is represented by those who lose jobs to overseas competitors or because their own companies moved operations there.

“In that situation, many people will go with their hearts,” he said, promoting “Buy American” legislation. “We have our work cut out for us.”

The task can become particularly difficult in a global recession like this one, he said, when many people are looking for help anywhere they can find it.

But Davis is trying to mobilize people to respond with their head, pointing out the dangers of raising trade barriers.

“The threats are from both economic turmoil and the protectionist impulses it drives,” Davis told the Detroit Economic Club last month. “We must argue that protectionism is the worst response at the worst time. We can’t let political expediency cloud global reality.”

But he knows that it’s more than just political expediency. Real people with real families lose real jobs and end up in real financial trouble. That hurts our economy, too.

If the free traders like Davis are going to convince the fair traders to back off tariffs and other tough measures, they have to do more to improve our social safety net.

Yes, there are limited programs right now to help some displaced workers whose jobs are lost to trade. But let me emphasize the word limited. The Trade Adjustment Assistance program helps workers who can prove they’ve been displaced “as a result of increased imports.”

In a global economy, U.S. workers get displaced for many reasons. And those workers also could use the help given to employees who qualify for the TAA program — income support beyond unemployment compensation and job training. Of course, health-care expenses present another financial burden for displaced workers.

For Davis’s position to prevail, he and his allies will need to push for a stronger safety net. Protectionism will remain an issue without one, because there are too many unprotected victims.

“We have to do better at that,” Davis said. “It’s our responsibility.”

3 comments Add your comment


July 7th, 2009
10:14 am

As a UPSer, I find it interesting that he mentioned:

“The heart, he said, is represented by those who lose jobs to overseas competitors or because their own companies moved operations there.”

If he and UPS management are concerned about this, then why are they actively outsourcing their US IT jobs to India?


January 1st, 2010
4:57 pm

Coming from a guy who uses the bulk of his full time workers as “temps”.

And let’s not use our heads, oh heaven’s no.
I mean it’s only your heart that your using when you’re trying to figure out what your next career change is going to be after they’ve destroyed your last two.
Don’t listen to that head of yours when the US has 700 Billion balance of trade defecit. No, that’s good for UPS. Just get the governement to kick in with more transfer payments to the people whose lives we’ve destroyed in that process.
Silly people, listening to the heart.

I love the “It’s our responsibility” line pushing for a stronger “safety net”
Last time I looked, UPS doesn’t supply a safety net, but it was the Federal Governement that did.

Typical corporate blather “We don’t want any regulations, just the governement to clean up our messes”

Henry neeeds to start labeling these pieces as “This is a paid advertisement by the US Chamber of Commerce”
At least, you could click ‘back” quicker.


June 21st, 2010
3:58 pm

Again corporate greed – they don’t care about our jobs – they want to outsource and never reguolated. unbelieveable- – wake up everyone!